Can I stay in an American hotel without a credit card?
December 1, 2009 5:12 PM   Subscribe

Can I stay in an American hotel without a credit card?

I'm waiting for a payment to go through on a credit card, but need to stay in a hotel in the southern US before that payment is processed. Until then, I am essentially without credit.

Will I have any problems booking a room at a hotel/motel in, say, Nashville or Memphis with only a debit card or cash? Is there anything I should know about this?
posted by anonymous to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
i've never had a credit card. i've stayed in motels in more than half the states in the US, including memphis. your debit card will be fine (especially if it's a debit with a visa logo). you can also reserve a room on a credit card and then pay cash.
posted by nadawi at 5:18 PM on December 1, 2009

Debit card won't be a problem so long as it has a Visa or MasterCard logo; these are credit cards as far as the hotel's processing of them goes. Cash might be an issue, especially at the nicer establishments. With a debit card, though, expect a hold to be put on your funds to cover not only each night's lodging but also incidentals, expect that the hold may possibly be substantially larger than the amount you will eventually be billed, and anticipate that it might take up to a couple of weeks for the hold to be removed after you've checked out and settled the bill.
posted by kindall at 5:19 PM on December 1, 2009

You can certainly pay up front at a hotel, although perhaps not a very good one.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:19 PM on December 1, 2009

In most hotels I've been to, you can use a debit card but they will charge you, potentially, several hundred dollars for a deposit, which will be refunded after your stay. They warn you about that when you present the card. I would call in advance and check the debit card policy at the place you wish to stay.
posted by dreadpiratesully at 5:19 PM on December 1, 2009

I second what nawawi said...
posted by HuronBob at 5:20 PM on December 1, 2009

I have done it and it's not a problem using a debit card to pay for your hotel.

However, note that often they will put a potential "hold" on your debit card (i.e. the room costs $100, but they may put a hold on your debit card for $150 or more to cover incidentals). Each hotel has a different policy, so you might want to check the hotel individually for this, especially if your debit card doesn't have a lot of cash on it. I have heard gas stations do this sometimes too, holding an additional amount on your card that is different from what you actually charge, refunding the difference within a day or two. Not sure why or if that's true.
posted by HeyAllie at 5:20 PM on December 1, 2009

Unclear. Do you actually have a credit card? That should be enough to book a room. It will not be debited until you actually check out. If you show up with cash instead (they prefer to be paid in advance with cash, and doing so avoid any problem of theft for you), it will not be debited at all. This was my experience, but very long ago. I believe I booked without a credit card, so you can imagine.

Buy why not just call a hotel or two and ask them? Call yourself Mr Jones. Use a bogus accent.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:22 PM on December 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Half the states in the US? Nadawi must have a night job as some sort of traveling motor-home decorator.

As she and others said, everyone loves money, and a debit card with a Visa or MC logo will almost always work.

If it doesn't, just sigh accusingly, as if it's their stupid computer, and offer to pay them with cash money, then, if that will make their silly machine happy.

(This technique is ideal in the South.)
posted by rokusan at 5:26 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

I use my debit card to pay for hotels and rental cars all the time. As others said, they will put a hold of up to $350 on your card at check-in. There is no shame in calling ahead to verify the specifics of the hotel's debit card policy.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:27 PM on December 1, 2009

You need a debit OR credit card to check into a room (if it's a Visa or Mastercard debit card, you should be OK), but you can certainly choose to pay in cash. They want the card as insurance that you won't run out on the bill, and also I believe proof of identity.
posted by muddgirl at 6:02 PM on December 1, 2009

If your problem is that you have a credit card but no available credit, you can always call your credit card company and ask them to increase your credit limit.
posted by radioamy at 6:14 PM on December 1, 2009

I can verify that using a debit w/Visa or MC logo will be just fine, having done so myself. However, as others have said, you've got to watch the hold (which, last time I did this, was the charge for the entire stay!).
posted by thomas j wise at 6:18 PM on December 1, 2009

Debit card is fine. If you use cash you need to over 21, because if you're under they'll assume you're more likely to mess up the room and want to charge your card if you do that.
posted by biochemist at 8:29 PM on December 1, 2009

I work at the front desk of a Hampton Inn and have worked at a 5 star Hilton, a Baymont and a dirtball motel. I can assure you that CASH WILL ALWAYS WORK. In fact, I would recommend cash before a debit card (that hold can stay on your account for upwards of a week, and once you check out, and we've released it on our end, it's entirely in your bank's hands). Anyway, if you would like to use your debit card, feel free, but do so with caution. Call the hotel and ask how much they authorize per day for incidentals (we authorize $25 per day up to $150, I believe).

If however, you would rather avoid the debit card cluster and pay with cash, tell them the following: "I would like to pay cash for the room and tax, and please turn off my phones and movies (and any other incidental charges they may have ie- room service, internet etc). How much will this cost?" They can give you an exact total and then you pay them cash and get a receipt. Take you keys and thank the kind desk clerk. They may photocopy your drivers license depending on policy, but they won't NEED a credit card, I can almost promise you that.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 8:30 PM on December 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have stayed in the US many times without using my credit cards or debit card paying cash.

However, at a stay in a Marriott courtyard for a night, I did not have my cards with me and the reception forced me to go to CVS and purchase Visa/MC/Amex gift cards to cover the room cost. I was informed Marriott does not accept cash anymore!

Which somehow how I can't understand as two days prior I paid cash for another Marriott hotel and they didn't even swipe my card.....

Ring first!
posted by Funmonkey1 at 12:09 AM on December 2, 2009

When I stayed at a fairly nice hotel on a business trip, the hotel told me they were going to place a hold on my card for incidentals.

I told them that I was not going to use any incidentals and if I did, I would pay as I go. They took away my privilege of charging food/drinks to the room and did not put a hold on my debit card. They were very nice about it and it seemed like something that they did all the time. But if I hadn't asked, they would have just put the hold on my card.
posted by mmmbacon at 6:56 AM on December 2, 2009

I have heard gas stations do this sometimes too, holding an additional amount on your card that is different from what you actually charge, refunding the difference within a day or two. Not sure why or if that's true.

Whoaaa....Yikes! Can someone verify/deny that gas stations actually do this? I can begrudgingly understand hotels doing this (though don't accept that they actually NEED to do it), but can't, for the life of me, build a scenario where gas stations need to do this.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:56 AM on December 2, 2009

The holding of an additional amount is an authorization that covers a supposed amount you might spend. At the hotel, the authorization includes the cost of your room + tax, and sometimes a $50 (though it can be whatever the amount the hotel wants) incidental charge, should you take or break anything. I think the rationale behind the gas station. You say $15, but end up pumping $17 because $15 didn't fill it all the way up. The hotel and gas want to make sure they are covered either way.

I suppose that's why that specific Mariott no longer accepts cash. Cash only pays your room + tax, but doesn't cover the hotel in the event that you trashed the room or stole the remote or had a food service charge that didn't show up until AFTER you checked out because the receipt didn't clearly show your room # or something like that. A credit card on file allows them to charge you after you're gone WHEN you have incurred any additional charges.

Once when I was working the front desk during college, some celebrity booked 4 of our villas and 1 regular room all paid in cash. AFTER they checked out, housekeeping discovered that members of his entourage had stolen a TV from one of the villas and trashed another room to pieces. Luckily, a copy of the driver's license was on file, so the hotel could track them down and have them arrested or negotiate for the cost of the damage. Having a credit card on file would have made it easier to bill them immediately.
posted by alice ayres at 8:35 AM on December 2, 2009

As far as the gas station question - Most gas stations with pay-at-pump credit card systems pre-authorize a certain amount before unlocking the pump. Typically this has been $50, but as prices spiked over the last few years a lot of stations now go for $75. With some debit cards (especially the pre-paid ones) there's a full hold for that amount placed. Many stations however will let you pre-pay a certain amount inside on your card and then unlock the pump for that amount. This gets around the issue altogether.
posted by pupdog at 1:06 PM on December 2, 2009

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